Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Monday, May 17, 2004
Compelling Story without Motive

Seymour Hersh has written what appears to be a damning story about Rumsfeld's involvement in torture committed by US forces around the world; the only problem is that he has no evidence to establish motive. Unnamed sources the highest levels of US intelligence have confirmed the accusations; but nobody has given Hersh any evidence for why Rumsfeld would approve such a thing. If Seymour Hersh took his story and presented it to a court of law, he would be lucky if he avoided a contempt charge. None of what he presents in his story would stand up to judicial scrutiny, or he should have sought an indictment. In all the feeding frenzy to attack anyone involved in the torture scandal, the issue of character has been ignored. Would Donald Rumsfeld have approved of such a policy?

The biggest problem I have with Hersh's story is not that it is not plausible to believe about the Secretary of Defense, but that it really doesn't apply to Donald Rumsfeld. All of the accusations make sense for any SecDef since Forrestal, but Rumsfeld's identity is that he changed how the US fights wars. For him to revert to the policies that used to be common would mean that he had abandoned the changes he's been working to create since he took office. The man who joyously cited photos of "…the first US cavalry charge of the 21st Century" on the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine, and has pushed incessantly for the US military to abandon rote methods, would have to be profoundly motivated to abandon his identity. Because Iraq was never going so badly as to require Rumsfeld to change his identity, Hersh fails to establish motive.

The cop-out would be to say that Washington changes people and that the pressure on the Secretary of Defense to accomplish results would justify his taking any action. Thirty years ago that might have been true for Rumsfeld. Today, that just seems ludicrous. He is a multi-millionaire executive doing his last tour of duty and trying very hard to make things right. The traditional temptations of power, money, and sex seem pretty weak when compared to the reality of the man. He already has power, money, and apparently quite a few sincere offers for a septuagenarian. There just does not seem to be enough reason to make Rumsfeld abandon his principles and consent to the kinds of policies that are being attributed to him. Without the motive portion of the triangle, the accusation collapses.
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